The Critic as Playwright: More Complications

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He also asked to see a couple of my plays in order that actors might show the audience what sort of thing I tend to write. On the evening of the appearance, about 70 people showed up to watch Bob interview me about the writer's life and also to see some brief excerpts from two of my plays. When he asked why I hadn't had any of my work produced locally (though I've had productions in Boston, New York and Edinburgh), I explained my policy. He then asked - in full view of 70 audience members - whether I would permit him to produce ART PEOPLE, which he knew had been produced Off-Broadway. I thought for a moment and said "yes." My reasoning was that I hadn't sought out the production, and therefore there could be no question of my trying to use an unfair advantage. I certainly didn't feel that Bob's offer obliged me to be any more or less honest in my reviews of the Studio's work. I think my readers have gotten used to the idea that I'm uncompromising in my attitudes toward theatre. I don't intend to change that one bit.

As to the reading at Gorilla, I explained to John that I receive no money for such a reading, there will be no reviews, and the whole point of the thing is to help me see whether the play is working and, if not, how to make changes. I told him that I review plays, not theaters, and having a reading at Gorilla (I had one several months ago also, of my play AMERICAN DUET) is not going to affect my critical honesty. He told me that he thought i'd given him some good answers, but would probably write about the issue in his paper anyway. We said goodbye cordially enough - we know each other from all the plays we've both reviewed - and that, at least for the moment was the end of it.

But now I'm interested in the reaction of readers of this blog. Do you think that I should have a strict embargo on my plays where local theaters are concerned? Or is it all right for me to show my fellow Bay area residents what I have to say when speaking on the stage and not in the paper?

On a different note: we now have the actors for the reading. Playing NIlsson the SS man will be Eric Burgess, whom you might have seen in THE GOAT at Jobsite Theater. It's a relief to have all four characters in the play finally named.

What next? Rehearsals, that's what. Stay tuned.

So now we're less than a week away from the staged reading of my play A RIVER IN THE DESERT at Gorilla Theatre and I get an e-mail from John Fleming, arts critic for the St. Petersburg Times. What he wants to know is, isn't it a conflict of interest, or at least the appearance of such a conflict, for me to have a reading at a theater that I also review? And further, isn't this also the case with the full production of my play ART PEOPLE at The Studio at 620 later in the spring? Am I perhaps being unethical? Please comment. I call him immediately and leave a message on his voice mail. Then, this morning, he calls me at home and asks for a response. I tell him this: During the ten years that I've been theater critic for Creative Loafing, I've made it a policy never to ask a local theater to produce one of my plays. I've always felt that that would be putting an intolerable pressure on the theater's artistic director, who might worry that I would review his theater's work negatively if he/she didn't produce my work. But last year, Bob Devin Jones of The [email protected] asked me to be one of the writers interviewed in the Studio's writers series.

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